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Posts tagged ‘Pittsburgh’

Not Just Another Pretty Face – Alissa Dorman and N9NE Athletics

Alissa Dorman

When Alissa Dorman ’10 M’12 was a starting forward and co-captain of Robert Morris University’s Women’s Ice Hockey team, she would put on mascara and straighten her hair before every game. When the opposing players saw her, they would try to get under her skin by calling her “beauty queen.” But that just made her laugh.

“I’ve been called worse,” she says.

Dorman, who studied advertising, sport management, and organizational leadership at Robert Morris, is the face behind N9NE Athletics, an up-and-coming online women’s athletics fashions retailer with a powerful message for female athletes.

“N9NE is designed to represent any female who puts her game face on,” says Dorman. “It’s about being confident in being a female; being strong and tough and not apologizing for it.”

During her time at RMU, Dorman wanted to find a way to promote girls’ athletics and to show that you could be both tough and feminine at the same time. “To me it wasn’t about looking a certain way,” she says, “but more about putting my game face on. And I knew I wasn’t the only female athlete who did this. So I created a Facebook group and started gaining a following. My brother Scott and I kicked around some ideas of what we could do with this vision, and ultimately we decided to start a line of statement tees that would shed some light on femininity in sport, with a little edge.”

Originally from Madison, Wisc., Dorman started playing when she was just four years old and was often the only girl on the team. “Growing up, people were always surprised that I played hockey,” she says. “I used to come home from school and play Barbies until hockey practice.” She came to RMU after being recruited for the women’s hockey program, which was started in 2005. “I remember coming for my visit, and I fell in love with the city. That August I packed my car and drove from Madison to Pittsburgh by myself. I was nervous about leaving home, but I quickly found a family in my team and ended up staying for seven years.”

In 2009, Dorman served has class vice president and was the recipient of the university’s Outstanding Senior Award. After graduation, she worked as a marketing coordinator for American Eagle Outfitters while pursuing her M.S. in organizational leadership from RMU. After that she worked as a social media coordinator for Lululemon Athletica in Columbus, Ohio, before landing her current role as an account coordinator for GMR Marketing in Milwaukee.

Dorman says having been a student athlete has definitely helped her in her career, whether it’s been getting her in the door for an interview or networking with people. “One of the biggest things RMU taught me is how to be a leader and how to work with people,” she says. “Being an athlete, you quickly learn the importance of working together. I have noticed that is one thing employers will look for. At Robert Morris, that same lesson was carried over into the classroom.”

Alissa DormanN9NE launched its first statement tee (“My Game Face Includes Mascara”) in September, and Dorman says they hope to unveil two more in the early part of next year. “We’re a new company, and staying on brand is very important to us. We want to make sure we do it the right way.”

Down the road she hopes N9NE Athletics will be a household name, with the retailer’s fashions in every Dick’s Sporting Goods store across the country. “There is a lot of work to be done and we need to catch a few breaks along the way, but we really feel the potential is there to make this something big.” ~

Written by Valentine J. Brkich

Twitter: @n9neathletics

Good Wine and Good Friends – Notes from the 2013 RMU Alumni Wine Tasting

Dave Toole ’08 with wife Kate (Queen) Toole ’08

In case you missed it, we held our second annual wine tasting event a week ago, Nov. 7, at the Allegheny Harvard-Yale-Princeton Club in downtown Pittsburgh. It was a spectacular evening featuring four different wine tastings accompanied by fine cuisine.

More than 70 Robert Morris alumni and guests joined us for the event, covering a class range of six decades. Some of the guests included a grandmother (Thelma Spells ’85) and her granddaughter (Amber Spells ’06); Ann (Cibulas) Puskaric M’81, daughter, and Marianne Cibulas ’75, daughter-in-law, of former RMU professor Dorothy Cibulus; two roommates who hadn’t seen each other in over 30 years; a recent alumna graduate who drove in from Cleveland; and a group of sorority sisters, too.

These types of connections are why we hold such a variety of events in locations in and around Pittsburgh. We believe strongly in keeping our alumni engaged, because you never know when you’ll reconnect with an old friend, meet a new one, or network your way into a new job. Those are the kinds of things that happen at our alumni events.

The wine tasting was yet another wonderful RMU alumni event. Please check the alumni webpage and the alumni Facebook page for pictures and comments from the event.

And we hope to see YOU soon at an RMU alumni event!

WarnerWarner Johnson
Director of Alumni Relations

From Student Athletes to Coaches

RMU Colonials_web_smRobert Morris University is known for developing competitive, academically focused student athletes who excel both on the field and in the classroom. What you might not know is that many of these same individuals go on to successful coaching careers after graduation.

(NOTE: This list shows only current coaches. Of course RMU is proud of all of our students who have gone on to coach or build successful careers in sports over the years, which includes hundreds of our graduates. However, if we have omitted you in error, we apologize. Please contact Val Brkich at and we’ll be sure to add your name and title.)

Hank Fraley ’12 – offensive Line coach, San Jose State Spartans
Sam Dorsett ’03, M’09 – running backs coach, Monmouth University Hawks
Colyn Haugh ’07, M’09 – assistant coach, St. Francis University Red Flash
Jake Nulph ’05, M’07 – co-defensive coordinator, linebackers’ coach and recruiting coordinator, St. Francis University Red Flash
Alex DiMichele ’11 – graduate assistant/assistant coach, Robert Morris University Colonials

Brett Vincent ’90 – head men’s basketball coach, Chowan University Hawks

Ice Hockey
Jason Evans ’02 – head ice hockey coach, Chatham University Cougars
Brett Hopfe ’08 – head ice hockey coach, Olds Grizzlys of the AJHL (Alberta Junior Hockey League)
Chelsea Walkland ’10 – assistant women’s ice hockey coach, Oswego St. University Lakers
Samantha Ullrich ’09 – assistant women’s ice hockey coach, Lindenwood University Lady Lions
Logan Bittle ’08 – assistant women’s ice hockey coach, Robert Morris University Colonials

Jill Dorsch ’07 – assistant softball coach, Lynn University Fighting Knights
Keri Meyer ’06 – head softball coach, Monroe College Mustangs
Stephani Moore ’00 – assistant softball coach, California University of PA Vulcans
Michael “Jexx” Varner ’07 – head softball coach, Lafayette College Leopards
Lauren Dickinson-Stawartz ’02, M’05 – assistant softball coach, Robert Morris University Colonials
Jaci Timko ’12 – assistant softball coach, Robert Morris University Colonials
Kristin McDaniel ’09 – assistant softball coach, Edinboro University Fighting Scots
Cory Shay M’11 – head softball coach, CCAC-South St. Bernards
Annie Dubovec ’11 – assistant softball coach, Youngstown State Penguins

Brad Barber ’13 – head men’s lacrosse coach, Hood College Blaze
Mike Rowse ’11 – assistant men’s lacrosse coach, Queens University of Charlotte Royals
Jillian Howley ’09 – head women’s lacrosse coach, Lake Erie College Storm
Dane Smith ’11 – assistant men’s lacrosse coach, Robert Morris University Colonials
Dan Mulford ’09, M’11 – head men’s lacrosse coach, Winchester Thurston School Bears

Mike Bruno ’90, head volleyball coach, Point Park University Pioneers

Running / Track and Field / Olympic Sports / Other
Justin DiIanni  ’04 – coaches marathoners in Pittsburgh
Marques Dexter  ’07 – assistant track and field coach, Cortlandt State University Red Dragons
Kevin Argauer  ’09 – assistant strength and conditioning coach, University of Pittsburgh Panthers
Erica Schmidt  ’10 – assistant compliance officer, University of Akron Zips

Just Kickin’ It – Catching Up with Neil Shaffer ’11

Neil Shaffer

Photo by Jeff Halstead,

When he was roaming the midfield for the Robert Morris University Colonials Men’s Soccer team, Neil Shaffer ’11 had a nice view of campus from the North Athletic Complex. But it was nothing compared to the vista he woke up to every day last year in Bremerton, Washington.

“Bremerton is beautiful,” says Shaffer. “It’s right on the Pugent Sound, and about an hour ferry ride from downtown Seattle. From my apartment I could see the mountains and the ocean, and just a drive down the road I could see Mt. Rainier.”

A graduate of RMU’s bachelor of arts in media arts program, Shaffer played soccer in the Pacific Northwest last season as a member of the Kitsap Pumas of the United Soccer League’s Premier Development League (PDL), the top developmental men’s league in North America. There he captained the Pumas to the Ruffneck Championship, a tournament between all the PDL teams in the state of Washington.

Shaffer started as an outside midfielder at RMU and then moved to central midfield during his senior season. That same year he led the team in goals with (6) and points (15) and was named to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Men’s Division I All-North Atlantic Regional Third Team and All-Northeast Conference Second Team. After graduating, he served as an assistant coach for the Colonials and played two seasons as center midfielder with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.

After finishing his second season with the Riverhounds, Shaffer had interest from Pittsburgh and other teams across the country. During a tryout in Minnesota, one of his teammates told him about Kitsap.

“I ended up calling them up, and fortunately, they were looking for a central midfielder. So after a little talking, we were able to work out a deal, and the next thing I knew, I drove out to Washington.”

Although moving across country was a big step for him, Shaffer says it was a great experience overall. The community was very friendly, and the fan base was amazing. They really made you feel at home.”

Throughout his career, Shaffer says that every time he’s gone up a level, whether it’s from high school to college, or college to the pros, the game becomes sharper and faster.

“The pace of the game is quicker and players technically are more capable on the ball,” he says. “Playing in the NEC, though, helped me tremendously in the transition.”

Shaffer only signed a one-year deal with the Pumas, so as of now his options are open.

“The next season won’t start until around January or February of next year, so I have time,” he says. “In this sport, things change day to day. We had a pretty good season, and my play got me some interest from several USL and NASL teams. I just have to keep working in the off-season, and then we’ll see what happens.”

Written by Valentine J. Brkich

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Teacher, Blogger, Mama, Foodie, Fashionista – Angelique Lorence ’05

AngeliqueHometown: Pittsburgh, PA (Peters Township)
RMU Degree: Elementary Education, 2005
Occupation: Web columnist, blogger (, and stay-at-home mama

What’s it like being the only woman/girl in the house?
Ha-ha! It’s the coolest feeling in the world! I am definitely the queen of the house and I love all of the attention I get from my guys. (Both big and small!) They do a great job of making me feel so special and so needed. Admittedly, I could do without all of the burping, farting, noise-making, silliness each day, but I wouldn’t trade this for the world. Being the only female in the house is a pretty special thing.

What’s the toughest part about raising three boys?
Every thing is tough about raising boys!  haha  Right now, I wish I knew the proper terminology for car parts, tools, machinery, etc… My days consist of me saying, ‘We need to look that up.’ or ‘Ask your daddy when he comes home.’ and that’s tough.  And keeping 3 boys alive?  That’s tough.  And keeping boys busy so they don’t get into trouble?  That’s tough too.  Boys don’t sit either.  Ever.  That’s tough.  I don’t know anything different though so I’m just working my through it and Starbucks loves me!

How have you benefited from earning your teaching certificate?
Before I found out that we were expecting, I was a substitute teacher in Mt. Lebanon School District. About halfway through my first pregnancy, I became a stay-at-home mom. Now I like to think I use my certification on my kids daily. Everywhere I go with our boys, everything we do together, I’m teaching. At least I try. I may not have a classroom full of students, but I like to think I teach our boys something new every day. Today we played Alphabet Bingo, and I sat them in front of me with their little boards on the floor. For a moment, I was taken back and reminiscing, telling my students, “OK…I’ll wait until you’re quiet and then we’ll begin. Raise your hand when you’re ready.” It totally worked.

How did you get into blogging?
I would always write about my boys’ antics and whatnot on Facebook. I think my status updates made others laugh. And feel bad for me. And laugh again. And other mamas could relate too! People would send me emails and private messages saying how hilarious my stories are and how I should start a blog. I considered it, and then, one day, I decided to jump in!

What do you like best about it?
My readers. They constantly remind me that I’m not alone in what I’m going through. They encourage me, uplift me, support me. I just adore them. I love when they chat with me, “like” my stories, share my posts, pin my stuff…etc. I love them. This group of women (and men) who I’ve never met face-to-face but who I feel like I just KNOW.  I wish I could meet them in person. Maybe one day!

Would you consider yourself a fashionista?
Ha! Sure! I like “girly things” (i.e., clothes, shoes, purses, jewelry, makeup) and I like to show that side of me. My style has changed so much since becoming a mom, so I like to show other moms that you can still run around with three little kids and look cute too.

You write about food, too. What’s your favorite meal to make?
Anything Italian! My vegetable lasagna recipe (just recently posted on the blog) is a favorite of ours. I also love to cook Mexican food. Picking just one favorite is too hard.  I love to cook and love when my family enjoys the meals I make.

What types of opportunities has your blogging brought you?
So many cool opportunities! Blogging has given me the opportunity to receive and review tons of great products, meet awesome people, and have a weekly spot in the Observer Reporter. I was asked to speak for different mom groups and to host an event at the new Pittsburgh La-Z-Boy store. THIS article!

What was your RMU experience like?
A crazy awesome whirlwind! I changed my major maybe 79 times but followed my heart and my passion and was supported the whole way through by the faculty and staff. I absolutely loved being at Robert Morris. I loved the overall size of the school, the classes, the teachers, my sorority…the whole experience was awesome.

What groups/activities did you take part in?
I held different positions in the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority. I did other activities through my major but honestly can’t remember the details. I feel like that was so long ago! In fact, what day is it? “Mom brain” is a real thing!

What do you think is RMU’s best aspect?
Class sizes. I was never a number and I was never lost. I always had a name and a relationship with my professors.

What’s the best advice you can give to new moms?
DO WHAT’S BEST FOR YOU AND YOUR FAMILY. Don’t judge another mama. She may not do what you do, how you do it, or when you do it, but it works for her just like whatever it is you are doing works for you. We mamas need to support each other more. Stick together. Accept each other. As long as you are doing what works for you and your kiddos, you’re doing good!

Interview by Valentine J. Brkich

Follow Angelique online:
Twitter: @thepiggytoes

RMU’s Broke Little Rich Girl – Samantha Lugo ’07

BLRG TruckHometown: Manhattan, N.Y.
Current Residence: Pittsburgh (Robinson Township, 10 years)
RMU Degree: Corporate Communication, December 2007, Cum Laude
Occupation: Marketing Specialist II for PNC Bank’s corporate office
Owner: Broke Little Rich Girl, Inc.

How’d you come up with the name for your fashion truck?
The idea behind the name is…You don’t have to spend a ton of money to look like you’re completely rich!

When did you develop your passion for fashion?
I have always loved fashion. As a little girl I would design my clothes using my grandmother’s scarves. I think it’s an inherited trait, since I come from a family predominately made up of women who all have their own unique style and passion for fashion.

Tell me about the BLRG truck:
I found my truck through an online search, and I worked with close family friends, Rob and Bob, who renovated the interior and made my vision into a reality.

BLRG interior 2Do you do events?
Absolutely! I do ladies nights, bridal showers, birthday parties, fashion parties, and any event where a group of women want to get together and shop. I also participate in special events like festivals and parties that happening in and around the city.

Where can people find your truck on the weekends?
I am usually parked in the Strip District on 23rd and Penn Avenue in front of Marty’s Market. I also participate in events like festivals and parties, though, and on those weekends I keep my social media feeds updated so people know where I am and where they can find me.

What was your RMU experience like?
I enjoyed my time at Robert Morris. I met a lot of wonderful people and professors who took the time to get to know me and help me succeed. It was easy to just make an appointment with the dean to discuss my future plans. I knew that probably wouldn’t happen at another university.

BLRG interior 3What groups/activities did you belong to?
I served as an executive member of the Lambda Pi Eta communication honor society and founding member of the upcoming chapter of Public Relations Student Society of America. I was also a Dean’s Scholar, an RMU Woman of Achievement award recipient, and a member of the Pittsburgh Advertising Federation.

What are your plans for BLRG long term?
I would LOVE to have a fleet of BLRG trucks in every state! That is my long term goal.

Twitter: @BLRGInc

Interview by Valentine J. Brkich

Reliving History – Brad Perciavalle ’12

Perciavalle (far right, middle, holding rifle) fires a shot during the re-enactment of Pickett's Charge in the Battle of Gettysburg.

Perciavalle (far right, middle, holding rifle) fires a shot during the re-enactment of Pickett’s Charge in the Battle of Gettysburg. (Photo courtesy Mark Makela:

During the week, you’re most likely to find Brad Perciavalle ’12 hunkered behind his desk at Fifth Avenue Place in downtown Pittsburgh. But on the weekends, there’s a good chance he’ll be sitting around a campfire gnawing on a piece of hardtack.

By day Perciavalle crunches numbers and calculates risk as an actuarial analyst for healthcare giant Highmark. “I look into cost and quality and try to figure out how we can make it more efficient,” says Perciavalle, who graduated from RMU’s nationally recognized actuarial science program.

When he’s not behind a computer, however, this Ambridge native enjoys reliving history as a Civil War reenactor. Recently he got to take part in the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg during the Blue Gray Alliance event.

“It was an amazing experience,” says Perciavalle, a member of the 63rd PA Vol. Infantry, Co. C., reenactment group.  “We got to be the Irish Brigade, and one guy even portrayed the Rev. William Corby, their famous chaplain. We could hear the gunfire in the background as he blessing us before going into battle. What made it even cooler was the fact that the guy was an actual priest, which made it all the more real. It was one of those moments you get into this for.”

Perciavalle first discovered reenacting in the summer of 2011. At the time he was volunteering at Old Economy Village in Ambridge, where he exposed to that type of living history. There he met Scot Buffington, an avid Civil War and WWII reenactor, whose wife, Sarah, serves as the village curator. Scot introduced him to the 63rd PA, and the rest, as they say, was…well…history. “Scot is a walking treasure-trove of information about the Civil War,” says Perciavalle, “and he really sparked my interest in reenacting.”

Not long after that, Perciavalle wrote a paper for his Intercultural Communication class, taught by Julianne M. Michalenko, lecturer of communications skills at RMU. “We had to write about a subculture that we weren’t a part of. So I did some research on the Civil War and interviewed Scot about reenacting. It was fun getting to research the social dynamic beforehand and then actually becoming a part of it myself.”

Perciavalle with Iron Brigade, First Bull Run

Perciavalle with Irish Brigade, First Bull Run

Perciavalle’s first reenactment experience was, appropriately, the first major engagement of the Civil War – First Bull Run (or First Manassas, depending on what side of the Mason-Dixon Line you’re from). “Starting at Bull Run allowed me to experience the Civil War in real time, chronologically speaking,” he says.

Since then, he’s taken part in reenactments of several other battles, including Balls Bluff and Carnifex Ferry (1861);  Antietam, Malvern Hill, Second Bull Run, and Fredericksburg (1862); Chancellorsville, and, most recently, Gettysburg (1863).

One of Perciavalle’s favorite memories took place at the reenactment of the Battle of Fredericksburg in December, when the Army Corps of Engineers brought in a pontoon bridge to cross the frigid Rappahannock, and the bridge ended up being six feet too short. As a result, Perciavalle and his companions had to wade waist high in the river, and he ended up having soggy shoes for the entire battle reenactment. “It’s always miserable when it’s happening,” he says, “but afterwards you’re like ‘That was pretty cool!'”

Perciavalle (right) at Antietam,  Burnside's Bridge

Perciavalle (right) at Antietam, Burnside’s Bridge

At the “Maryland, My Maryland” 150th reenactment of the Battle of Antietam in 2012, Perciavalle again got to play a member of the famed Irish Brigade, this time in the infamous Wheatfield. This time, however, there were no spectators, and units were already engaged when they got involved in the early morning. “We did a five-mile march, in full gear, starting at 5 a.m., carrying wet canvas and packs from the previous night’s rain. The fog was rising, and with all the black powder and smoke, it completely blocked out the sun. It was surreal.”

At Gettysburg this past July, Perciavalle joined approximately 10,000 reenactors from many different states and countries for the 150th anniversary festivities. There he met people from England, Germany, and as far away as Australia. “The people who do this come from all walks of life,” he says. “Blue- and white-collar, history lovers, computer programmers, tradesmen, actuaries… People are just drawn to it. It’s a romanticized era that they connect to for one reason or another.”

Perciavalle says he first learned about actuarial science in junior high. He chose RMU after finding out about its nationally recognized program. In fact, it was the only university he applied to. “Robert Morris just seemed like the right fit,” he says. He also thought the school’s size was just right. “I would’ve been lost at a bigger school. At RMU I was able to make real, personal connections, and it made me feel like I mattered.”

Perciavalle also liked all the opportunities RMU provided. As an undergrad, he took part in the marching band, pep band, jazz band, and choir. He even served as an R.A. As a senior, he took part in the  Civil War Study Tour, led by history professor Daniel Barr, Ph.D.

As for his reenacting bucket list, Perciavalle hopes maybe someday portray a Confederate soldier or a sailor in the Federal Navy. In the near future, he’s planning on taking part in the Battle of Bull Town event in Braxton County, W. Va. For him, reenacting isn’t about playing make-believe. It’s about escaping to a simpler, quieter time and learning something important in the process.

“I feel like a lot of people would be skeptical to call this hobby a vacation,” he says. “But I’ve learned so much doing it. Plus, it’s so relaxing to be able to escape emails, cell phones, and Facebook for a weekend. It really helps you to realize just how connected our present is to our past.”

Written by Valentine J. Brkich